For The Record

Warnock targets state takeover of local elections with new voting bill

By: - June 22, 2021 2:43 pm

Sen. Raphael Warnock implored Republican lawmakers to allow a debate about Democratic legislation aimed at providing more federal safeguards for voting rights. Screen shot from U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock introduced legislation this week aimed at circumventing some of the pressure of partisan politics on state elections while also providing more safeguards to insulate local election boards, election workers, and volunteers.   

Warnock is the lead sponsor of the new Preventing Election Subversion Act of 2021 that targets provisions of new election legislation sweeping the country, like the state takeover of local election boards that’s now permitted under Georgia’s new voting law. 

He pitched the importance of the bill during a Senate floor speech he delivered hours before the chamber is expected to take up a procedural vote to consider allowing debate on the For the People Act, a comprehensive voting rights package that would expand mail-in ballots, automatically register citizens to vote, and overhaul campaign financing. 

Warnock acknowledged Tuesday the uphill battle the legislation faces to gain the support of 60 Senators to avoid a filibuster. He proposes the newly introduced measures as another key component of election reform.

Fellow Georgians U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff and Rep. Nikema Williams are also signed on to the Preventing Election Subversion Act, designed to allow a local election official to appeal their removal in U.S. District Court, add federal penalties for harassing an election worker, impose a buffer on poll observers and more. 

“Across the nation, constitutional rights are being assaulted, and I fear that if we don’t act as a body in this moment, we will have crossed the dangerous Rubicon in our nation that will make it extremely difficult for the next generation to secure voting rights,” Warnock said.

Republicans continue to criticize Democratic lawmakers for what they call federal overreach through sweeping voting legislation that threatens to repeal new voting restrictions in GOP-led states. 

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger denounced Warnock and Ossoff’s latest legislation as a Democratic push for federal control of state voting rules.

“By doing the bidding of Stacey Abrams, Ossoff and Warnock fail to protect Georgia voters who deserve accountability from county elections officials who repeatedly drop the ball. Georgians deserve better,” Raffensperger tweeted after Warnock’s speech.

After record voter turnout in the 2020 general election, Georgia and many other Republican-dominated state legislatures passed new voting laws. Lawmakers said the new rules will restore confidence following an election where then-President Donald Trump and many of his supporters launched unfounded allegations that widespread fraud cost him the election.

Raffensperger repeatedly called Georgia’s 2020 election cycle the most secure in state history.

Gov. Brian Kemp said Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams and other Democrats are reversing course on previous opposition to new voter I.D. mandates in Georgia in the wake of compromises proposed by West Virginia’s U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin designed to get federal legislation passed. 

“Stacey Abrams, who said our new voting law was Jim Crow 2.0 a month and a half ago, is now saying things like 15 days early voting and voter identification are perfectly fine when it’s Joe Manchin’s bill… they can’t have it both ways,” Kemp said during an interview Monday on Fox & Friends.

Warnock called for Congress to host a serious debate about the merits of S.1 and his companion legislation in order to ensure access to the ballot box for every eligible American.

“Folks on the left, folks on the right, believe that there’s something broken and needs to be fixed,” Warnock said.

“Let’s do our job,” he later added. “Resist the easy route, the temptation to hide behind Senate procedure. Let’s have a principled conversation in front of the American people about voting rights. Let’s have that conversation, right here, right now.”

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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